Friday, July 16, 2010

Library privatization must be done right

Today's cover story about the Stockton-San Joaquin County Library system possibly outsourcing its management to a private company brings up some issues and concerns.

First off, LSSI has a convincing sales pitch. The way its people present what the company can bring to the table — lower costs and better services to the public — it sounds like a winning proposition. However, there are several things that must be done the right way.

Specifically, it comes down to the word public, as in public libraries.

Taxpayers fund libraries with the idea that anyone can use them — no extra fee required. Libraries, in this way, are a great intellecutal leveler, giving people of all incomes and backgrounds access to a wealth of knowledge and resources.

Taxpayers also fund them with the idea that books and periodicals will not be censored because of their content — or that if there is censorship, it is done by a duly elected governing body.

LSSI says keeping these features alive, and actually expanding the way libraries serve the public by helping implement various literacy and language programs, is part and parcel of the company's philosophy.

If so, it seems that the company offers the best of all worlds to taxpayers and library patrons. But county leaders must be diligent in reviewing LSSI's bid to ensure that the public good is truly being served.

1 comment:

San Joaquin Lady said...

I have never heard of a private company lying in their sales pitch...have you? They can say whatever they want, but they have had issues around the country paying bills and treating staff fairly. The libraries in contract with them have a clause that states they cannot speak negatively about the company... Even after the contract is over. This doesn't leave a lot of objective information out there.